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Bush Autobiography Set for Fall Publication : Vice President's Buttoned-Down 'Preppie' Image Loosens Up a Bit in 'Looking Forward'

May 14, 1987|ELIZABETH MEHREN | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — From the time he passed out dead drunk at a Texas-cowboy-style Christmas party to the Iran- contra controversy, a "warts and all" autobiography by Vice President George Bush will be among the lead titles published by Doubleday this fall.

Co-written with Washington journalist Victor Gold, "Looking Forward" is believed to be the first such book written by a major political figure while still in office. The book is the product of two years of "intense" collaboration between Gold and the vice president, and draws heavily on the recollections and observations Bush began tape-recording on a regular basis nearly 10 years ago.

Signed Up in '77

But the first-person story Bush and Gold turned in to Doubleday bears little resemblance to the memoirs-of-a-public-person book first signed up by Doubleday in 1977. At that time, Gold said, Bush was interested in writing about the 10-year period, beginning in 1966, in which he had served as a congressman, United Nations representative, chairman of the Republican National Committee, envoy to China and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

"That's a pretty busy 10 years," said Gold, a columnist for Washingtonian magazine and the author of two nonfiction books about Washington. "And he said, 'Gee, I have something to say here.' "

But then, Gold said, "a funny thing happened on the way to the publisher." Bush, his longtime supporter and former speechwriter said, "got the presidential bug."

While plans for a book went on hold during the 1980 presidential campaign and on into the first term of the Reagan Administration, Bush continued to tape his thoughts. Two years ago, Bush and Gold "got serious," deciding, said Gold, "we really ought to get around to this book."

Though the book is scheduled for publication at a time when candidates for the 1988 presidential election are lining up in legions, Gold insists that "Looking Forward" is "not a polemic, not a campaign tract as such, in terms of 'my vision of the future.' " Known to be eager to succeed President Reagan in the White House, Bush has not written, his collaborator said, "My 25 Ideas That Will Save America in the 21st Century."

"To use a name just out of the air," Gold said, "this is not a Gary Hart book."

Rather, the "candid, informal" tone of "Looking Forward" will address such matters as the vice president's "preppie" image, his wartime experiences and the ups and downs of the oil business in Texas.

"Reticent" in some cases to reopen such wounds as the death in 1953 of his 4-year-old daughter, Robin, to leukemia, Bush was for the most part "very forthright" in examining his life, Gold said.

A Texas Christmas

For example, Gold recalled the episode when Bush was "a young 24-year-older, and they were having their first Christmas in Texas." At the time, Bush "had been in the Navy, he was not a fellow who had never shaved." But even though "George never drank much," Gold said, he volunteered to serve as bartender.

"He felt that when you are in Texas at one of these Christmas parties, you do what the Texas people do." As a result, said Gold, "they carried him home in the back of a truck. He was dumped on the lawn, and a guy knocked on the door and said to Barbara, 'Well, there's George.' "

Said Gold of the vice president's decision to include this incident, "I think some politicians might have been a little more cautious."

Still making updates in the book's galleys when he was interviewed here on Wednesday, Gold said "Looking Forward" would also discuss the vice president's role in the Iran- contra affair.

"That's a very important part of his life, and it's in there," Gold said.

Neither Doubleday nor the co-authors will discuss financial arrangements for "Looking Forward," except to say the original 1977 contract was renegotiated when Bush and Gold began collaborating in 1985. The vice president has announced he will donate his portion of the book's proceeds to two charities--the leukemia fund at the M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston and the United Negro College Fund. Gold said Bush has been active as a fund-raiser for United Negro College Fund since his student days at Yale.

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